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Change coming to Las Vegas Drive-in

If you get a sixth sense at the Las Vegas Drive-in tonight, you’re not seeing things.

The outdoor theater’s sixth screen – which a windstorm knocked over more than a decade ago – is back in action.

“We’ve wanted to add that screen for a long time,” said Tony Maniscalco, marketing vice president for West Wind Drive-ins, which operates Las Vegas’ only drive-in theater.

And there are more changes on the way.

The drive-in, at 4150 W. Carey Ave. in North Las Vegas, shows old-fashioned, 35 millimeter film prints. For now.

But West Wind is converting its theaters to digital projection. The rollout should be completed by summer’s end, Maniscalco says.

Switching to digital projection will enable the drive-in to show 3-D movies, he notes.

When the drive-in’s sixth screen was knocked out of action, there was little demand for its repair, Maniscalco recalls.

“Drive-ins were considered sort of unviable,” he says.

And when Century Theatres sold its Southern Nevada theaters to the Texas-based Cinemark chain about six years ago, Cinemark had no interest in the drive-in.

So West Wind’s parent company, Syufy Enterprises, kept the drive-in, figuring it could convert the property for another use, Maniscalco says. (That’s what the company did with other Las Vegas locations, where multiplexes made way for shopping centers.)

In the six years since Cinemark took over Century’s indoor locations, however, drive-ins have staged a comeback, in part because of the ongoing economic downturn.

Business at West Wind Drive-ins has increased 43 percent in recent years and the chain has reopened two closed California drive-ins, according to Maniscalco.

And the price is right. In most cases, drive-in patrons can see two first-run movies for $6.50 per adult; admission is $1 for children 5-12 and free for those under 5. (Evening first-run prices for adults at local indoor theaters are more than $10.)

Besides, “people love the experience” of going to the drive-in, Maniscalco says. “We’re trying to grow that business again. There’s a demand for it.”

Contact reporter Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.

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